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What is the Salary of Expat Doctors in The UAE?
The question about medical doctor’s salary and compensation is actually one of the questions we received the most since launching GulfSpecialists.com, however given the complex nature of the topic that concerns jobs, salary, relocation and benefits, a number of caveats should be made before talking about the total compensation a medical doctor can earn.
Also, because the topic of medical doctor compensation is very sensitive, we must state upfront that our only intention when writing this article is to describe the topic to the best of our understanding, and that the information we are about to provide is the best that we could find. However, this information might not be completely accurate at all times and must be taken merely as a representation of the data we collected.
Country of training and licensing, and its impact on compensation
The resources we used to write this article are an online survey we distributed to a subset of western European medical doctors practicing in the UAE, and the information that we derived from conversations we had within our personal network of health professionals. Because the sources we used are limited to only this sub-group of practicing physicians, they are most likely skewed towards the higher end of the spectrum of possible medical salaries, if you consider doctors from all training backgrounds. In the UAE, the country of training and original licensing of the doctor are among the most relevant factors influencing the professional's compensation and benefits. Doctors who have trained and licensed in American and UK systems (US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) are the ones that generally have greatest ease in licensing locally. They can negotiate better wages because of their demand in the nationals' and western expat communities. These communities are the ones which on an average purchase the most costly medical services. Western European trained and the licensed doctors are also close in level of salaries / compensation, remaining in the better-paid half of the global group. Unfortunately, we are not at the moment able to provide any information on medical professionals trained and licensed in other regional areas of the world, so this article will only reflect this group.
Schemes, experience and other factors influencing compensation levels.
Obviously, pay-package and salary level of physicians is influenced by a multitude of factors which we can only try to list, knowing that we still probably won't be exhaustive. First of all, the compensation scheme is often not just linked to a salary; but because the great majority of doctors work in the private sector, compensations are also linked in variable percentage to incentive and productivity schemes. First of all, the more days a doctor works, and more patients a doctor is able to consult/operate, more is the revenue the employing institution will make (which in turn will pay higher wages to the doctor based on his/her productivity). Secondly, compensation may include other benefits such as housing allowance, insurances, schooling or travel allowances. In our results we display the fully-loaded monthly compensation packages including the estimated monetary value of non-cash elements (medical insurances, flight tickets, etc). Other factors influencing how much money a doctor will make are years of experience and specialty of practice, with more experienced doctors and ones practicing in specialty surgeries expected to be earning more than younger doctors and (on average) medical specialists or GPs.
The Cost of Living and Lifestyle
It is well-known that the UAE is generally able to provide very attractive compensation packages, especially because of the absence of compensation / income taxation. However, while we admit that salary levels allow generally for quicker and larger savings if compared to other countries with taxable incomes, one must keep in mind that cost of living is higher in the UAE - especially for things such as housing, schooling, food and recreational activities. We can't provide you information on just how much more expensive living in the UAE is, but there are multiple forums and websites describing this topic which you can easily find online. Overall we must say that in our experience the financial balance is still in absolute amounts in favor of living and working UAE, for households having similar lifestyles and similar jobs compared to Europe.
So how much do doctors make?
(all values in United Arab Emirates Dirhams, referring to “fully-loaded” monthly compensation including monetized equivalent amount for non-cash benefits, on a sample of western European doctors practicing in private centers. Values and exchange rate from July 2017.)
As we mentioned, all of the below information comes from a recruitment survey which was performed on western European doctors only. The values described are valid for the great majority of such medical population, however there can be also gross exceptions to the ranges provided. To make two examples, we can mention that starting salaries for a GP position may be as low as AED 25,000 (EUR 5,900) per month, while a particularly popular specialty surgeon in his/her own private practice may achieve amounts largely exceeding AED 100,000 (EUR 23,600) every month. In other words, the interval mentioned below would probably cover about 90% of practicing western European physicians with exceptions on both sides of the range.
To begin with, let's start with aggregate estimates. Across the whole range surveyed the candidates’ average professional experience was 20 years. As one can expect, the UAE is more attractive for professionals who have a substantial experience, since they can turn this experience into higher revenue than elsewhere. Also, the local private centers (we only surveyed doctors in the private sector and none from public hospitals) tend to hire more senior doctors because they can be self-sufficient, more productive and attractive to patients. Across our whole sample in all specialties (however the majority of doctors we surveyed practice surgical specialties so this must be considered) the lowest compensation was AED 41,000 (EUR 9,900), the maximum compensation was AED 93,000 (EUR 22,000), the average compensation was AED 74,000 (EUR 17,500). The median is AED 82,000 (EUR 19,400) and the mode are AED 82,000 and 85,000 (EUR 19,400 and EUR 20,000 both occurring the same number of times in our sample)
In our survey all the most senior physicians were on the higher side of the range, proving that experience does have a role in compensation levels. Obviously. All physicians with more than 20 years of experience were earning AED 85,000 (EUR 20,000) or more per month.
If we compare medical specialties to surgical specialties, we find the following: Medical specialists have an average professional experience in the group of 15.5 years, and earn on average AED 62,000 per month (EUR 14,600). Surgical specialists within the group have an average experience of 21 years and earn on average AED 77,000 per month (EUR 18,200). While allowing for a small variation in compensation which might be due to the 4-5-years seniority difference between the two groups, the large AED 15,000 (EUR 3,500) per month difference between the two groups suggest that surgical specialists might generally have larger compensation packages than medical colleagues in this specific environment.